ADDRESS IN FOUR DIRECTIONS
I’m glad she isn’t here
to see it—the daily death toll,
faces vanishing to masks.
Whatever absorbed her
spared her. The owls
at the preserve, her broken
woodstove. I trusted her presence
even as I did not trust her
choices; she swam every day
in Alameda’s poisoned water.
She was a kind of landmass,
devoted to repair—her death
meant something fierce and solid
was dissolved. When we
hiked, we saw fragile
rainshafts floating like mist
in the trees. And heard,
far in the woods, only small
things beyond our answering.
Beyond any answer, his brother
died. At three he chatted,
shy, he reached a tiny hand
for my hand before descending
the stair. He didn’t want
to practice guitar—he wanted to
play it. I understand
I won’t see him again,
that those four years
were a blue window whose
frame is gone. I imagine him
now, inside that peculiar
yardless mansion, loved too
intensely, a quarantine that might
never end. I’m afraid if I
spoke to him now my face
would have no meaning.
Blue snow-curtains over
the mountains. Noon’s
sharp spring thaw. Beyond
answer he still bristles. Once most
close to me, he is no longer even
leaving me. The pine smell
of his skin inside a wool sweater
no longer even lingers.
His script on stray paper,
his easy smile—the evening
senselessly as we shut the door
and dissolve into our separate
selves. By the rules of
dusk, the scattering of light
by smoke, we discern that the day
ended, is over. Dreaming
has been damaged.
Do I have to speak of
all of them to speak to you.
I am always driven
back. Inside me they
are not ghosts, but sawdust
falling through bright light.
A flood of heat from
the window makes my feet
unsteady against the wood
floors. I’m coming to love
your hands holding ropes, kitchen
gadgets, tools, smiling at me
across the divide of our recent
lives—a virus. The blue tilt of
earth has entered us, altering
each burnt-out season.
We toss in each other’s
sleep, restless, docked below
the window’s noisy birds.
You turn the cold glass
morning and your eyes
don’t shy away. I don’t know
if there is a way to mourn
that is not helpless.
But you bring the rustle of wind
from the other room, the sharp
pins of birdsong. My body’s
deep need for peace.
A PLAIN FIELD
giving way to woods. I walked
across it. And saw dry thistle glinting,
then shadows flow in the grass—
and back towards that loneliness beside me
more than half my life, a long walk
through heat. Until
I came here. A meadow made of weeds
whose thin whistles hold me, irradiant,
to today, sprung up from my feet,
and at times happiness, as if there were
sureness and purpose I could not have
seen. And the bloodforce in silence
below this floating well of birds. Anchorless
no more. A meadow in dark pollens,
clouded with asters, not wanting anything—
peaceably still when the sky seems to
flood my hands with the faint light of
gold. Or the last coal-train’s trainhorn,
deep, slow, drifting out across bluegrass.
For I do not even have to close my eyes
to see the richness that will persist
in the lesser music of the field—
shadows crossing between afternoon
and evening, nettle-soft smoke under such
sundown. The pursuit of
nothing. In standing still, quiet, I felt
my debt to life. In this one breath—
held up by the air, at last let go.
Dawn snow blown into night.
Joanna Klink is the author of five books of poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her most recent book, The Nightfields, was published by Penguin in 2020. She teaches at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.